Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

The "Trash Isles": campaigners ask U.N. to make ocean waste its own country

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 8 September 2017 11:45 GMT

A boy collects plastic materials near a polluted coastline to sell in Manila April 9, 2008. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

Image Caption and Rights Information

"There may well be a national anthem, general elections and even a national football team"

By Adela Suliman

LONDON, Sept 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations should recognise a giant mountain of ocean waste and plastic as an official country, campaigners say, with American environmentalist Al Gore, British actress Judi Dench and thousands of people signing up for citizenship.

The Pacific Ocean's "Trash Isles", where waste has accumulated to fill a space the size of France, is at the centre of a campaign to lobby the United Nations to recognise ocean plastic as a country and to draw attention to sea pollution.

"We want to shrink this nation (Trash Isles). We don't want any more plastic added," Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and first honorary citizen of the Trash Isles, said in a statement released by the campaign organisers.

"The oceans are crucial to our survival and we need to protect them."

British actress Judi Dench, who won an Academy Award for her role as Queen Elizabeth I, has agreed to be the queen of the Trash Isles and British Olympic athlete, Mo Farah, is also lending his support, according to the campaign led by British media organisation LADbible and the U.S. non-profit network Plastic Oceans Foundation.

Marine experts fear there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

From fishing lines to flip flops, there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the sea, according to a 2014 study, with debris found littering oceans from the North to South Poles.

The campaign group has submitted a formal request for recognition to the United Nations to declare the Trash Isles as the world's newest country and has already come up with a flag, a currency called Debris and passports made of recycled materials.

"We are just getting started", said Stephen Mai of the LADbible Group.

"There may well be a national anthem, general elections and even a national football team."

So far more than 38,000 people have signed the online petition to become citizens of the Trash Isles. Some want the nascent state to take part in the World Cup football tournament and others hope it is a serious way to get the environmental issue addressed.

"Plastic is one of the biggest threats to our planet today and you only have to take a walk to your local stream, river or beach to see evidence of this for yourself," said Sarah Roberts, a Trash Isles "ambassador".

"The truth of the matter is we are on the verge of an environmental catastrophe."

(Reporting by Adela Suliman; Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.